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Punch Shot: Who wins, who disappoints and will a LIV player contend at the U.S. Open?

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The 2022 U.S. Open concludes on Sunday at the Country Club. writers weigh in with their predictions.

Who wins the 122nd U.S. Open? Winning score?

Rex Hoggard: Rory McIlroy. Fresh off the kind of clutch performance that wins major championships, at the RBC Canadian Open, where he picked up more than four shots on the field in strokes gained: off the tee, the Northern Irishman is poised to break a major drought that now stretches back to 2014. But it won’t be easy. Winning score will be 5 under par.

Ryan Lavner: Jon Rahm, 4 under. The defending champion arrives at Brookline knowing he can win, even without his best stuff. That’s important. Though he might not be as sharp as this time last year, he’s still the most complete player in the game – and the best driver on Tour this season. This is the major best suited to his skill set.

Brentley Romine: Will Zalatoris. The PGA was nearly his, but the former U.S. Junior champ has all the tools to win a U.S. Open. His putting isn’t as bad as you think, and truth is, not many – if anyone – is striking it better right now.

Who comes close, but falls short?

Rex Hoggard: Justin Thomas. He dueled with McIlroy down the stretch last week in Canada and is playing some of the best golf of his career, but like last week at St. George’s, he comes up short.

Ryan Lavner: Rory McIlroy. Over the years he’s had an uneven relationship with the U.S. Open, but the 2011 champion has strung together three consecutive top-10s in this event and credits a shift in mindset. Now his confidence is overflowing. If his refined wedge play last week wasn’t an aberration, this could be the week he ends that major-less drought.

Brentley Romine: Matt Fitzpatrick. He’s showing he’s a force to be reckoned with in these things. He’s had past success here at TCC, but that’s not why I like him. At 18th in the world, he’s one of the best players who remains major-less. Perhaps he sheds that title Sunday.

Full-field tee times from U.S. Open

Who disappoints?

Rex Hoggard: Dustin Johnson. Even before last week’s LIV Golf event and DJ’s decision to resign from the PGA Tour, he appeared distracted. He hasn’t had a top-10 finish in a stroke-play event since The Players in March and he missed the cut at the PGA Championship with rounds of 73.

Ryan Lavner: Brooks Koepka. He might have lost to a total of just four players over his past four U.S. Opens, but there’s little to suggest that Koepka is in the kind of form that can contend this week. Over the past three months he’s played only twice, with one missed cut and a tie for 55th, as speculation continues to swirl not just about his brittle body but also his future plans.

Brentley Romine: Rory McIlroy. He’s hyped up coming off a victory last week, and though his wedge play looked good in Canada, I still need to see it hold up to a U.S. Open test. His run of top-10s in majors this year comes to an end; McIlroy makes the cut but doesn’t factor.

Who could be a Brookline shocker?

Rex Hoggard: Phil Mickelson. We all know about the six runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open. We also all know that the last few months have not been kind to Lefty. He found the over-50 magic at last year’s PGA Championship, but given the noise that now surrounds Mickelson, a victory this week would be beyond shocking.

Ryan Lavner: … No one. The last nine major winners, in order: JT, Scottie, Morikawa, Rahm, Phil, Hideki, DJ, Bryson, Morikawa. Big dogs only. The top level of the game is too strong, too deep, for flukes.

Brentley Romine: How shocking are we talking about? If we’re rooting for the story, that would be local kid Michael Thorbjornsen, the Stanford junior, who, like Francis Ouimet in 1913, is a 20-year-old reigning Mass Amateur champion. Now, THAT would be shocking!

U.S. Open odds: Rory favorite; JT, Scheff follow

The U.S. Open is here, and it's anyone's guess who will prevail in golf's most grueling test this year.

Will any LIV players contend?

Rex Hoggard: Talor Gooch. Before he joined the breakaway circuit, Gooch was emerging as one of the Tour’s most consistent performers with top-25 finishes in five of his last eight starts to go along with his victory earlier this season at the RSM Classic. He would be a long-shot, but the game is there.

Ryan Lavner: Present LIV players or future? We kid! Of the crop currently under contract, Dustin Johnson, the 2016 champ, is the only player who inspires any sort of confidence, and even his motivation is unknown after banking a considerable check.

Brentley Romine: Did you see some of the scores last week? Truthfully, most of the LIV players are past their primes and certainly not capable of winning this week. But it wouldn’t be surprising to see Dustin Johnson or a (healthy?) Bryson DeChambeau have a say in this championship.